MichelleMantor.com

In the digital world, it’s easy to share, collaborate, learn and even grow with people you have never met before. I love that idea…that I can connect with someone around the corner or across the globe. I’ve always been fascinated by people, their culture, what makes a person unique and with something as simple as an internet connection, you have the whole world to explore.

Welcome to my world. Feel free to leave a comment or share something of yourself. More isn’t always better but when it comes to ideas and expanding your mind, it often is.

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A Force For Good

Posted by on Aug 3, 2015 in Editorial Works | 0 comments

A Force For Good

…The Ultimate Global Citizen By: Michelle Mantor Photography By Evin Thayer  Sometimes the tumble cycle of life knocks us around a bit. We may become ragged and thread bare from the constant motion and effort to keep up with “the process”. Speaking for myself, I definitely experience life-fatigue now and then. I need to recharge my batteries AND recharge my spirit, that part of me that not only keeps me going but also motivates me to reach higher, burn brighter and spread hope to others. Recently, that inspiration came from meeting John Paul DeJoria, the perpetual entrepreneur that co-founded the mega hair care corporation, Paul Mitchell Systems. From the seriously challenged “tumble-cycle” of his youth to his incredible story of financial and philanthropic success, DeJoria’s journey is a beacon of hope that serves to remind us that we can achieve great things even when obstacles loom large. Like so many events in our lives, meeting John Paul, or “JP” as he is known to friends and colleagues, was not something I sought out but rather it came about through a friend connecting us. Naturally I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting the man whose face I had seen in magazines ads and photos attending star-studded Hollywood events but it wasn’t until I did my research that I discovered the inspirational story behind the man; it wasn’t until I spent a few hours with him at his home in Austin that I realized the profound effect his efforts are having on our world; and it wasn’t until a few days after the interview when I couldn’t stop reflecting on his journey that I realized he had inspired me. My spirit was ready to keep reaching higher, burning brighter and motivating others. I want to share his story with you. Born and raised in what could certainly be called humble beginnings, DeJoria was faced with life’s challenges at an early age growing up in Los Angeles. Destiny’s way of ensuring that he had plenty of entrepreneurial experience, DeJoria started out selling greeting cards at age 9 and delivering newspapers to help out his single mother. After a stint in the U.S. Navy, he would go on to sell insurance, encyclopedias, dictating machines, work as a janitor and pump gasoline. It’s hard to imagine this uber-successful guy being homeless but John Paul found himself briefly without a place to live not once, but twice. He slept in his car and collected bottles to subsist. Not to be defeated and not to be given handouts, he eventually landed a job in the hair care industry where he quickly received a promotion to National Manager of Schools and Chain Salons. After building his expertise in the marketing of hair care products and services in National and VP level positions with several companies, John Paul combined his marketing prowess with the hairdressing talents of Paul Mitchell to launch their now-iconic business, John Paul Mitchell Systems. As with all companies that reach noteworthy status, a clear vision guided the dream – the pair shared a vision to create a company for hairdressers that would provide tools of success for hair care professionals, their salons and the entire beauty industry. Founding the company on just $700 the pair had scraped together, DeJoria and Mitchell put their...

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Essay: Being Thankful

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Literary Pieces | 1 comment

Essay: Being Thankful

Michelle Mantor with  “Remy” – Published in the December 2010 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo by Evin Thayer Well, we’re back! Remy and I are together again for our values feature photo. As many of you know, two years ago when Remy was 13, I thought that would be our last year together so I chose to be photographed with just Remy and not include my two Maltese mixes. Last year, when Remy turned 14, I definitely thought that was the finale and so the little dogs were once again left behind. Look who’s still here at 15! Yes, the little dogs are like “when will it ever be our turn?” but as long as my girl sticks around, I’ll stick by her as my number 1 sidekick. Although I make light about Remy’s perseverance in life, I know that having her by my side is a blessing that I am so thankful for. A 15-year-old Briard is quite extraordinary and I find it ironic because she herself is such an extraordinary dog. I gave thought to writing about perseverance but in the end, I believe Remy’s presence in my life most exemplifies the value of thankfulness: I’m thankful for the wisdom she has taught me…she inherently knows the right thing to do in all situations. I’m thankful for her loyalty…she never gives up on me. I’m thankful for her forgiveness…she doesn’t hold grudges for the walks not taken. I’m thankful for her inspiration…she gives me lots of ideas for the magazine. I’m thankful for her protection…she stands guard to defend me at all times. I’m thankful for her dignity…she is showing me how to grow old with elegance. I’m thankful for her consistency…I know what to expect from her and there is a confidence in knowing something rather than guessing. I’m thankful for her sense of humor…she can turn my tears to laughter with her silly antics. I’m thankful for her attitude…she looks for every opportunity in life to be cheerful. But mostly I’m thankful for her love…she warms my heart, stands by my side, kisses my cheek and feeds my soul. So Remy, I sure hope you surprise me and turn sweet 16. But whatever the future holds, just know that I love you my big girl!...

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Essay: The Value of Nature

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Editorial Works, Literary Pieces | 0 comments

Essay: The Value of Nature

Michelle Mantor with Azi; Published in the December 2012 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo by Evin Thayer As young people, we often underestimate the value of nature. The vibrant colors and patterns in a peacock, the calming effect of morning mist rising from a lake as the sun rises, the simplicity in the design of a daisy…these are all gifts that nature bestows upon our lives but appreciating their value can take many years of living a complicated life before we truly understand the brilliance that is simply…nature. Last year I visited Costa Rica, a country blessed with a plethora of natural resources and beauty – gorgeous beaches, a lush rainforest, fascinating wildlife including colorful parrots and cute monkeys, waterfalls and spectacular sunsets. While there, I also noticed the infrastructure was nowhere near our standards (roads, buildings, etc.) and the locals in the area I visited were living in tiny rundown houses and seemed to have very little economic advantages. And yet they were all smiling, happy and positive in their overall outlook. I spent some time pondering this (I had a lot of time to ponder on a 4 hour bumpy journey to the coast in what would have been a 1 hour drive on a freeway) and I thought about all of the “unnatural” elements that consume our lives in the U.S. like shopping malls, movie theaters, bowling alleys, treadmills, video games, TV and so on. From cosmetic surgeries and injections to diamonds and expensive adornments, our society has a radar focus on plastic, manufactured and synthetic. When I was a kid, I can remember that our entertainment was playing outside with whatever things we could find. We made forts, played stick ball, caught fireflies and tadpoles, picked berries, played with our dogs, created games and road bikes. Essentially, we used the outdoors and nature’s bounty to explore and play. Now, after years of participating in our culture’s move toward gadgetry, multi-tasking, frenzied schedules and indoor entertainment, I’ve come to appreciate and even crave nature. As in most things, balance is key. Being a Libra, I am keenly aware of balance and whenever I feel something in my life has swung too far toward imbalance, I get frustrated and then I realize the reason and work to get back to the “middle”. Yes, we have come to depend on technology to the point that we almost have no choice but to use it otherwise we cannot function effectively in the business world and to some degree our private lives. We marvel at the latest features of the iPhone and stand in line for hours to see a Twilight movie release. And although these are impressive, nothing is more impressive than God’s design of nature. The majestic beauty of this horse next to me, the perfect colors on a Clownfish, the glory of an old oak tree that comes to life again every Spring…these are also things that I hope we never forget to marvel at. Perhaps the Costa Ricans have it figured out. They are still living close to nature without so many unnatural elements pushing through into the relationship. They work with their hands, eat natural foods from their gardens, play outdoors with whatever Mother Nature provides. As another year wanes, it seems “natural” to...

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Essay: Innocence

Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 in Literary Pieces, Uncategorized Posts | 0 comments

Essay: Innocence

Michelle Mantor and “Friday” – Published in the December 2011 Issue of Houston PetTalk – Photo By Evin Thayer As many of you know, I recently lost my beautiful Briard, “Remy” after 15 wonderful years. I had always promised her a 2-page tribute in PetTalk when she passed. Because she lived to be 15, I had to go through shoeboxes of photos to put the story together since there were no digital photos of her early years. As I looked through family photos spanning more than a decade, I experienced many emotions…joy, laughter, sorrow…and the tears to match all those feelings came pouring out. My daughter was with me and she asked, “Mom, why are you crying because of pictures”? It struck me that one of the very reasons I was crying was the quality she was exemplifying at that moment…innocence. Innocence can bring forth feelings of great happiness as well as sadness. As I looked at the photos of my children when they were toddlers with their sweet little faces and cute poses, I realized those days of “young child innocence” were gone and my babies had grown up to nearly be teenagers. Never again would I have that baby in my arms, that small hand reaching up to grab mine to walk with me or the outstretched arms wanting me to pick them up and swing them about. Those thoughts hurt deeply in a way only a mother can know. But juxtaposed to that sadness, was the joy of innocence. I smiled at the photos of my son at his Chucky Cheese birthday party as he fully believed Chucky was a real being. I smiled at the photos of Remy as a young pup exuberant to play the same game of chase over and over. I smiled at my daughter’s innocence of asking why I was crying by the mere simple act of “looking at pictures”. Innocence to me implies a naiveté, a vulnerability that can so easily be harmed or lost forever. When I reflect about my strong feelings toward animal abuse or the pain I feel when I see a stray, neglected dog, I know my passion for helping them is born out of knowing how innocent they are. They don’t have the tools to survive in man’s world and they rely on us to be their stewards. As adults, our innocence is lost. We are full of pretense, racism, insecurities, and falsehoods. Just one look at our society and we see cheaters, phonies and fabrications. From the “reality shows” that are scripted, to artificial body parts to photoshopped images and dishonest politicians, it can make one wary or even cynical. What’s real? Who is honest? Where do I place my trust? When we look at children, we don’t see those impurities. We see pure awareness, honesty and joyous attitudes that are open to possibilities. We see hearts willing to love and accept with no preconditions. I see those same characteristics my pets. And, just like in my children and my pets, I love their innocence and feel great pain if they are mistreated or if they were to lose this wonderful virtue. I don’t think it’s possible for us to back to the state of innocence as an adult, but I think we can...

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Turquoise

Posted by on Nov 4, 2014 in Favorite Things | 0 comments

Turquoise

I have loved turquoise for as long as I can remember (along with anything American Indian/Navajo). When I was a kid, we would visit my grandparents about once a month and on the way to their home, we would pass a hoky little TeePee that sold lots of American Indian trinkets, etc., and my happiest moment was when my Dad would say “yes” to my begging to stop and shop. I wanted anything turquoise, beaded or with feathers. This hasn’t changed..I still love all of those things! I not only love turquoise jewelry, but I love the color itself – furniture, animals, clothing, etc. Turquoise is ancient, yet again and again it finds itself back in fashion. Its shining sky blue is one of the most popular trend colours in the world of jewelry and fashion. I have pieces from when I was a child to a beautiful Squash Blossom given to me on my 50th birthday from a special friend. I will never stop acquiring it, wearing it and loving...

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Essay: Faith

Posted by on Sep 18, 2014 in Editorial Works, Literary Pieces | 0 comments

Essay: Faith

MICHELLE MANTOR & “SAKE” Published in December 2013, Houston PetTalk Magazine  – Photo by Evin Thayer I’m sitting down to write this essay on November 17, a very bittersweet day for me. Thirty years ago today, my father was murdered in a very senseless, cold-hearted crime. He was a gentle, kind man that I loved immensely and was so undeserving of this act that it caused me to call into question everything I believed about God. I was devastated and angry and I wondered if there really was a divine creator or if we just exist in a random, meaningless state of evolution. In short, my FAITH was being severely tested and for a time, lost altogether. Fast forward 15 years later on November 17, I gave birth to my first child, a healthy baby boy. Interestingly, he was not due until mid December but prematurely made his entrance into the world 5 weeks early. I had worked through many of my issues surrounding my father’s death and my FAITH was in much better shape but the birth of my child on this day, turning the saddest day of my life into one of great joy was surely, to me, an act of divinity. It put into perspective that through our pain, through times of adversity and through our seemingly uphill battles, we gain strength, wisdom, resiliency and empathy. We grow in mind and spirit. Having FAITH might be one of the most challenging facets of humanity. FAITH means believing without proof, giving your self over to something not in your control. This is a vulnerable place to be. I find it a juxtaposition between fear and hope – a fear that my hope and expectancy may be naïveté. But in the end, my FAITH prevails because of my trust and belief in a divine source. It’s not uncommon to hear of clergy speak about times of doubt in their own FAITH. When they witness a disaster of epic proportions like the recent hurricane in the Philippines or the pain of just one person, perhaps a mother that has lost a child to cancer, it is challenging to find the good, to see light, to understand “why”, to trust that there is a purpose. These are natural emotions but without sorrow there is no joy, without loss there is no appreciation. FAITH, being that it’s steeped in trust, is not just an intellectual element. It also goes to matters of the heart; meaning that FAITH consumes our entire being and life experience and the whole of one’s self is caught up in believing. Here’s what I know about FAITH: whenever I am in doubt, which as a human I will undoubtedly sometimes experience doubt, I look around me and I’m reminded of the inexplicable nature of our world. There are miracles taking place as people overcome disease, there is awe-inspiring beauty in the perfect markings on an Orca whale or the cute little dots on a ladybug and there are mesmerizing acts of transformation such as a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Even my little Yorkie mix “Sake” shows me everyday the unique nature of canine companionship. It’s easy to take some of these things for granted because they are common in our surroundings. But if you really think about...

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Essay: Wisdom

Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 in Editorial Works, Literary Pieces | 0 comments

Essay: Wisdom

Michelle Mantor and “Remy” – Published in Houston PetTalk, December Issue, 2009 Photo by Evin Thayer WISDOM I’ve had many pets throughout my lifetime.  Although I loved them all, a few were uniquely special. When we get a pet, we don’t know what our relationship will be but when we are fortunate enough to have one that transcends many others, it’s an extraordinary journey. I’m lucky enough to have one of those unique relationships with my Briard, Remy. From the time she was a puppy, I found myself thinking of her as an old soul. She always seems to know what to do in various situations. Her ability to discern between when to protect, when to accept, when to have fun or simply when to stay out of the way are always on target. What I’ve come to realize is that she has something many of my other pets didn’t have: wisdom. Having good intuition, judgment and perception are all part of being wise and Remy has shown time and again that she knows what to do, often before I do. When my children were small, she was gentle and although she is a big dog, she had an amazing gracefulness and agility when it came to not stepping on crawling babies. As the children grew and moved from the nursery downstairs to a bedroom upstairs, she would position herself at the foot of the stairs each night , standing ready to protect her “herd” if needed. Being the animal lover that I am, other pets were inevitably brought into the house. Some she likes (our Yorkie mix, Sake), some she doesn’t (our Maltese mix, Friday) and others she simply ignored (our guinea pig, Petunia). But no matter what her personal feelings are, she still protects them and accepts them as part of the family. She equally knows when to be nice to a stranger and when to say “back off”. We once had her in our Suburban and by taking a wrong turn, ended up somewhere we didn’t want to be. Several young men, looking like they were up to no-good, started to approach our car. After her award-winning performance as Kujo the Killer Dog, they wisely went the other direction. One her greatest displays of wisdom is knowing when to be humorous. She has several very funny antics, one of which is charging our little dogs and just at the last second, jumping over them. The little dogs don’t find this nearly as humorous as Remy and I. She always turns to look at me and I would swear she is laughing with me. Of course, whenever I’m feeling blue, she pulls out her funniest tricks as if to say, “I want to make you feel better and laughter is the best medicine.” Very wise indeed. Now, in the sunset of her life, she has slowed down considerably and in just the last few months has become somewhat of an invalid. I’ve carried her hind legs in a sling to help her get outside, I’ve cleaned many “accidents”, given her daily medications, spoiled her with home cooked food and made her a special bed in the kitchen. I’ve had the most spectacular 14 years with her…more than I could have ever hoped for. I love her immensely....

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Essay: Forgiveness

Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 in Editorial Works, Literary Pieces, Uncategorized Posts | 0 comments

Essay: Forgiveness

Michelle Mantor and “Remy” – Published in Houston PetTalk, December Issue, 2008 Photo by Evin Thayer FORGIVENESS It is my deep-seated belief that our souls mature and age over time (like a good wine or cheese) and one of the signs that we are progressing toward maturity is the ability to embrace forGIVEness. Living life in this world challenges us with obstacles and envelopes us with our own construed expectations. So, as we live amongst other souls, undoubtedly we will be hurt, transgressed against and disappointed by others. Our real test of personal growth is to give up the negative feelings, let go of the ill will and seek the positive forces in the situation. The yen and yang of life assures us there is an opposite side of bad and that, of course, is good. The exciting thing about forgiveness is that it is good for us! Releasing negative energy frees us and opens our hearts to more goodness. We make room to love, give and through our giving, receive. The best way to observe and learn forgiveness is to look at our pets. They don’t hold grudges; they love unconditionally and their hearts are open to giving and receiving every single day. Time and time again, we witness an animal that has been mistreated by humans but still runs to a new person, ready to love and be loved. They are not burdened with thoughts of revenge, jealousy or disappointment in the actions of others. This Holiday season, take one more step in the journey of life and give the gift of true forgiveness. Your gift will come back to you many-fold as you lift up someone else’s spirit and nourish your...

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Essay: JOY

Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 in Editorial Works, Literary Pieces | 0 comments

Essay: JOY

Michelle Mantor and “Sake” & “Remy” – Published in Houston PetTalk, December Issue, 2007. Photo by Gittings PhotographyJOY JOY, along with peace, love and hope, are essential themes in my faith that encompass Advent and the Christmas season. When I sat down to write about JOY, I realized that I could not just write about JOY alone because it is a mysterious and complex term. Is it a state of mind? Is it a momentary feeling? Some may wonder if it’s attainable while others wonder if it’s sustainable. And then I began to wonder why I assigned JOY to myself for this feature story! In my quest to eloquently define and pen beautiful prose about JOY, I started thinking about the things in life that have brought me JOY…the gift of my two children, saving a litter of kittens abandoned by their mother, my first encounter with Caribbean blue waters and the wonderous sight of beautiful sea life just below, the weeks following after I brought my Briard puppy home…she was so cool!!, And I could go on and on with other things that have brought JOY to my life but ultimately, I believe I am confusing happiness and pleasure with JOY. Onward with my quest. Next, I thought about JOY as it relates to the Holidays. As we rush through the Christmas season, we pay homage to the term JOY along with love and peace and happiness. “JOY to the world, Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men” we proclaim in our greeting cards. We attempt to spread JOY and happiness by rushing about buying gifts guaranteed to make our friends and family joyous and happy (or so the sales clerk tells us!). We pack the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Years with one holiday activity after another breathlessly advertising how happy we are and how much we love the holidays! We shop (and shop and shop), we excuse our over-consumption of food and beverage, we scamper about trying to visit with as many friends as possible, we make at least three trips to Wal Mart for more Christmas lights, we stand in long lines at the Post Office, we force the whole family (including the dogs and cats) to wear sweaters in October as we all sweat through our Christmas card photo session, we are nearly strip searched at the airport as we rush to see our far flung families and basically have a wonderful Christmas experience (huh?). At times I feel like asking someone the first week of January “Um….excuse me…but, did I just experience Christmas or was that a dream in fast forward?” After reading, researching and “noodling” (my favorite word!) about JOY, I’ve come to a personal conclusion: Because we can’t predict or even effectively define JOY, much of our lives are spent orchestrating that quintessential life where unbeknownst to us, we are working very hard to alleviate the one thing that truly brings us JOY…and that is pain. We reign in our love to avoid heartache; we hold back on our dreams to avoid disappointment, we abandon our sense of child lest we look foolish, we are allowed a socially acceptable time to feel sorrow, and we hold on to our negative thoughts and cynical attitudes to protect ourselves from pain. When...

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Poem: Will I?

Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 in Literary Pieces, Poetry | 0 comments

Poem: Will I?

I wrote this poem just after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Will I? The earth raged bringing chaos, tragedy, despair and death… We were all together in the churning destruction…babies slipped away, dogs choked on their last gasp for air as the water won the battle, the heat closed in like an angry force taking the weak as they scrambled ever higher to the pinnacle of a structure they once called home… I saw too much. My soul hurts and yearns to erase the images in my mind’s eye. Was this force a divine plan or a random response to all things past? Each will be left to decide on their own… Will I see the hand reaching out for me? Will I grasp the chance of a new beginning? Will I turn bad to good? Will I make mankind a believer in the human spirit? I went back. I had to. The air choked me, the silence deafened me. They said, “don’t go”…but they didn’t understand. I found her in a dark corner.  Scared and weak, she came to me. I touched her fur and let go of my pain. I saw the look of survival in her eyes. And then I knew…I...

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